Maiden Voyage of The Boreal 55—What Worked and What Didn’t

The NKE autopilot in total control.
The NKE autopilot in total control.

Innovation is a wonderful thing—when it works. However, much of our evaluation of new gear is on the basis of the advertising blurb alone, as we never have the chance to test run it ourselves. But every now and again some of us get the chance to do just that, and for more than five minutes, as I did recently aboard a brand new Boreal 55, Eala Bhan, when we sailed her home to Scotland.

And, allowing for the fact that this was a fresh-from-build boat, and you’re bound to get snags with such ‘newness’, it gave me what I consider to be a valid opportunity to comment objectively on some kit that I’ve been longing to try out for some time.

Colin, European Correspondent here at AAC, is a deeply experienced offshore sailor who holds a Yachtmaster licence, and a gifted photographer and talented writer who has added a whole new dimension to Attainable Adventure Cruising. In addition, since Colin and Louise are from England and had their OVNI 435, Pèlerin built in France, they bring a European perspective to our site. You can read more about Colin and Louise and their business at their website.

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Marc Dacey

Colin, a useful report. We, too, are aiming for the ideal of “shore independence” in terms of electricity generation, and yours is the first yacht I’ve heard of that had hydro, solar and wind (and perhaps even an alternator?) going at once. I would be interested to learn of the size and type of your house bank and the sort of MPPT or similar device you used to get those disparate charge sources to play well together, as well as the device which gave you the cumulative report that 24 amps were going into your banks. We’ve toyed with the idea of a Duo-Gen or something similar, but that would cancel out the rationale of having a feathering prop; as the crew of an already modestly canvassed motorsailer, dragging anything off the stern save for a windvane rudder makes little sense!

I look forward to your take on broadband radar when its failure is diagnosed and remedied. A radar technician said to me a few years ago that his somewhat impractical ideal was a pulse radar well up the mast, AIS off a whip antenna at the mast top, and a broadband radar on a pole off the stern. He found each method had its advantages, and that the combo gave the best awareness of fast-moving ships and weather.

Colin Speedie

Hi Marc
All of the different systems use their own regulators. For a simple set-up, the MPPT regulator supplied with the Superwind will also cope with additional solar panels up to a maximum of 150W, and the ‘convertor’ supplied with the Watt and Sea will accept up to a 50W solar panel.

The domestic bank comprises 4 x 105Ah gel batteries. The system monitor (covers everything – tanks etc., too) is the Philippi PSM which can be viewed via the link in the article. This clever device allows you to view all charging elements in a cumulative or broken down form.

As it happens I was fortunate enough to have further couple of days sailing aboard ‘Eala Bhan’ with the radar now working, and I found it very impressive. Having said that, I’ve also recently sailed aboard a beautiful new Boreal 47 ‘Astro’ with the Furuno 1835 colour radar and found it equally good in most respects. For what it’s worth my impression remains that the the FMCW radar has definite advantages at close range, and the safety and power consumption are definitely better than conventional radar. But longer distances and squall spotting might be better on the Furuno, although I’d really need more time to play with both to confirm those impressions.

Best wishes
Colin

Marc Dacey

Just to be clear, the outputs from each regulator go to the bank individually or via sort sort of terminal post to the bank? I just hauled 800 pounds of batteries aboard to compromise a rather large house bank, and I have both solar and wind (and alternator) and it never occurred to me to put them through separate MPPTs, just one with a switch!

Glad to hear that the radar is healed and thanks for the quick answer.

Colin Speedie

Hi Marc

I’m not entirely sure at what stage the outputs from the various generating devices ‘merge’ but clearly there must be some way for the Philippi PSM to read their individual outputs before they do. I’ll ask and let you know.

Best wishes
Colin

John Harries

Hi Colin and Marc,

My next chapter in the electrical book, that we will publish in next few days, will cover how multiple charging devices work together.

Marc Dacey

Evidently, John’s up at bat for this one. I appreciate what I might describe as the “efficient editorial synergy” that allows topics to be driven in part by comments from previous entries.

Steve

Colin, I would love to know that also as it is a complete mystery no matter how much investigating I do. All that I know is the Philippi PSM does its job well. The philippi display shows plus or minus amps depending on input of all power making devices in use to the amount of dc power being used. In the dog house there is an anolog display that gives you a reading of only the power being made by all devices except engine alternator. It is this anolog meter that tells me how much power I’m making be it 10 amp hours or 42 amp hours. To find out how much each power source is making you must shut off the other power sources so that there is just the one on that your intersted in knowing how much its making. Also the Philippi shuts down all dc power generators, wind machine, solar, and prop shaft generator when engine alternator is charging batteries.

Bill Wakefield

Good article, Colin. Thank you.

We also have a Zeus Touch but with 4G RADAR [which is amazing for all the reasons you cited.] Ours once failed to deliver a RADAR signal to the MFD also. Fortunately that time I was lucky enough to resolve the issue in flight.

In our case, the fault was an interrupted network signal vs. a faulty RADAR.

We had a GoFree WiFi1 unit [for mirroring/controlling the MFD from wireless tablets] in series in the Ethernet network between the RADAR and MFD. We noticed the WiFi was also off-line. When the WiFi1 was bypassed on the Ethernet network, the RADAR was once again available on the MFD.

B&G Tech Support later confirmed the WiFi1 that both WiFi and Ethernet networks had failed in the unit. [We have since had a 2nd unit fail- WiFi only. We are on our 3rd and so far so good. All were warranty replacements.]

Our lessons learned were to route the Ethernet wiring so we can bypass any intermediary device in series in the circuit, and to carry a spare GoFree WiFi1 if we choose to rely upon its capabilities- which we do not. It offers great flexibility, but time will tell regarding reliability of the latest product generation. [A future lesson learned may be to change systems…]

Best wishes to those resolving the issue.

On a different note, were you able to evaluate the forward scanning SONAR? [Which is also on our near future projects list…]

Colin Speedie

Hi Bill

thanks for your explanation of the problems you have encountered with the Zeus system and the intriguing way you have got around them. It’s clear you know your way around electronics, but who would more simple folk like me cope?

And see Patrick’s comments below on the forward looking sonar. We have am Echopilot FLS and love it, so if ti can match that level of performance it should be good.
Best wishes

Colin

Petter :-)

Hello Colin,

Lucky owners of the Boral 55 – really one of my favourites vessels the Boreals. Regretfully no used ones for sale at the time I purchased my vessel, and new was out of budget, so here I am happily sailing a refitted Koopmans alu vessel – Iris.

The navigation setup on Iris is very similar to the one Eala Bhan and to the one of Bill´s Denali Rose. Regretfully I have also been plagued by malfunction of the B&G system, however, in a different fashion. On Iris we have suffered multiple NMEA port failures; first on a B&G Zeus MDF, second time around the MDF again as well as the Simrad AC42 autopilot computer and the rudder indicator.

The local supplier, NavyTech in Oslo, has been very forthcoming and provided new gear free of charge. This works when we are located close to them, but is not really a viable option when really casting off the bowlines, which is very very soon. When the gear functions, it is great. But with low reliability, what is the use? From my experience I would guess Furuno/NKE is the safer choice.

Early in 2016 I wrote to Navico, the holding of B&G, to let them know of the issue. I was then approached by a senior executive of B&G, who promised that they would seriously dig into the matter with their technical expertise. There was an exchange of email with details of the issues and a fistful of promises returned. Long story short – whatever they offered to provide, has later evaporated in thin air – not to be heard from. So much for B&G support – even at very senior involvement.

Hence I am back to square one, and have a question, Colin; would it be possible for you to check if Boreal has any “tricks” or best practices they use when installing NMEA 2000 networks in their vessels – or provide me with a contact that I may interface with?

The question is relating in particular to grounding of the network. The standard B&G NMEA power tap has the shield wire spliced with the negative lead. As far as I understand, without being an engineer, this grounds the NMEA network in “normal” vessels, where negative and ground may the a part of the same system.

In aluminum vessels with floating systems, things are a “bit” different. The local installer has asked me to connect the negative lead of the network to the hull to ground the network, which I have sternly refuse and will continue to do so. (Due reference to John´s multiple rants about the marine electronics industry.) Hence the above question of Boreal´s best practice.

Greetings,
Petter

p.s. for those readers that would like more detail on the issue, it is described in greater detail in the post relating to how to avoid lightening strike.

Henning

About the radar problems:
Modern marine electronics probably have a pretty high hardware replacement rate but my guess is that many of the replacements do not fix the problem because the problem is really with the software. For countless times I have seen my Simrad NSS (not evo2) and B&G Zeus (not Zeus Squared) MFD report “No Radar” when after a reboot, the radar miraculously reappeared only to disappear again after the next reboot.

With Ethernet-based communication between a MFD and its radar, when the MFD starts up, it “discovers” the radar (and possibly the radar discovers the MFD) by following a procedure programmed into it. Imagine being in a large dark room and calling out loudly “Hello, I am an MFD model xyz and are there any compatible radars here?”, then waiting for answers a set interval of time and maybe calling again after another set interval if there was no response, and finally giving up permanently after yet another set interval dictated by the software.

I can tell from my own experience that the behaviour of my two MFDs and the success they had in discovering the radar changed significantly between all the software versions I have tried over the 5 years of experience so far.

This process of discovery is not exactly rocket sience. It is used everywhere in our modern lives. For example, when I bought a new cheapo HP inkjet printer with “WiFi”, turned it on and pressed the WPS key on the router, moments later my Windows computer discovered it. I smiled because I had just been spared a half hour of troubleshooting but – this is the important part – I wouldn’t have been surprised in the least if it hadn’t automagically worked. And if that printer would break and I would get another one of the same model, I would not bet much of my hard earned money that discovery would again work. I would say, the chances for it to work are about the same as they were the first time around, maybe 50%.

And that’s all fine! We’re only talking about a printer and, anyway, if its not working, I’m only in the same situation as I were if there were no auto discovery.

But do you want the radar and its display to depend on a sophisticated exchange based on a somwhat shaky protocol *every* time that you turn them on?
After at least 50 hours spent troublehooting this process over the course of at least 4 years, I know what my answer to that question is.

John has impressed on us his advice to use standalone systems whenever possible, time again and again.

Why is it so hard to accept good advice?

Probably, every time you made a bad (marine electronics) decision, there was some good advice available, telling you otherwise. But hey, you don’t need to follow good advice. You really only need a good excuse to not follow it, right?

For your convenience, I’ve made a small list of them right here:
– If I go to a boat show, all the radars are Ethernet-based (Not true. Even on this years “boot” show in Düsseldorf, in a dimly lit corner of the Furuno stand, there was a 1835 on display)
– Everybody else is buying this, so how can it be wrong? (Yeah, but didn’t you know most anybody else pleasureboat owner never use their radars or only once a year in port and if its not working then, they just say what the hell?)
– I would miss out on important new features (A hot topic right now, what with Doppler Radar arriving? But realize: these fancy feature are not going to work in reality because they were stitched together under enormous time pressure)
– If there’s a problem, it’ll be fixed soon with a software update (I bet you all the development resouces at Navico are currently busy like hell working on an answer to Doppler and no one is fixing your problem)

It’s your money, it’s you at night in the English Channel in fog and it’s totally up to you. When I was last in the English channel at night (minus fog), my 4G radar wasn’t working and it will come off my boat as soon as budget and time allows. And it won’t be replaced with the same stuff from a different vendor.

Colin Speedie

Hi Petter

that’s not good news and I’m sorry to hear about the problems you have encountered.

Your technical query is beyond me, I’m afraid, but I will try and find out what I can on the installation and grounding and get back to you. Perhaps you could send me a PM?

And I’m 100% with you on your comments on dependability.

Best wishes

Colin

Petter ;-)

Thanks for engaging, Colin. Have sent you the details via wave action – get in touch.
-p

Colin Speedie

Hi Henning

it would be very hard to dispute a word of your analysis of the current state of play with computer based systems – sadly. We live in an age where tech helpings direct us straight to non-commercial tech chat rooms for advice and support, a complete abdication of support and as much use as a chocolate fireguard when your 1000 miles from land, something I’ll be addressing in a future post.

Best wishes

Colin

Patrick Flockhart

In response to the few questions about how the B&G system is doing on Eala Bhan.

In a nut shell, one failure after another, which has wasted a great deal of people’s time, especially mine (the owner), and considerable expense even though it is still under guarantee, not to mention the risk associated with important systems not working when they should.

Initially all was fine, but then on one of the first test sails in Brittany the Radar failed (twice) at that point we think it was to do with the GoFree (wifi) system. Fortunately the installer, Brice, was able to fix it and all seemed to be fine, until we left for the UK, when as Colin mentioned, it literally failed as we left the river at Tregieur.

Since then the whole radar unit was replaced and it started to work fine, though one could not do a chart overlay (not vital, but nice to have and it should do it). Also as soon as the radar was replaced the AIS failed, this was then replaced as was the whole monitor, which was not picking up the forward scan and various other functions. All seemed ok, but the monitor was still not able to do chart/radar overlays and the latest thing has been that the GPS receiver has had to be replaced on the stern (an easy job). But unfortunately we still do not have a fully functioning system, so we are now awaiting B&G’s advice on the next step.

Bill asked how was the Forward Scan. The answer is, I think great, but as it has not been working properly in situations where we could have used it I am not sure yet. I’ll do a post when I can properly evaluate it.

Overall I would say if the B&G system worked reliably and consistently it would be excellent, there are lots of useful functions and it is easy to use. The B&G staff when I have been speaking with them directly have been positive and helpful. But as of yet there has not been one proper trip when the whole system has worked and it is currently still not working as it should, despite a large percentage of it having been replaced. Thus you may draw your own conclusions about if it is a good bit of kit to have on board.

And I would agree with Hennings’s statement about taking good advice. To be fair I did order the B&G before I’d read John’s thoughts on the matter. Wish I had! But we live and learn.

Lastly I would reconfirm Colin’s comments about the NKE; “terrific”, strong, reliable (so far) and easy to use.

In the meantime we are really enjoying getting to know Eala Bhan; she a great boat and we feel immensely privileged to have h

Colin Speedie

Hi Patrick
thanks for stepping in with your own explanation and take on this regrettable saga.

After six months you’d have thought this would be sorted out. Let’s hope for a swift resolution of your technical issues very soon.

Best wishes

Colin

Bill Wakefield

Thank you, Patrick.

I, too, am sorry to hear of all the [electronic] issues occurring during your shake-down phase of such a beautiful and capable vessel.

Thank you for sharing your assessment of the forward looking SONAR. We have had one on the project list for the next haul-out.

We are just starting year 2 of no issues with our B&G system [ever since we installed the 3rd GoFree WiFi1 device I mentioned in my previous post in this thread.]

If we can get through another year of no issues I will consider installing the SONAR.

Wishing you a speedy resolution and achieving fully operational status.

Cheers! Bill

Adam Kerner

Hi Patrick – Very sorry to read about the initial issues w/ B&G, and the followup doesn’t sound much better. I wonder if you have an update on how it’s working now, a couple of years later. We’ve just ordered a Boreal 52, and will soon be making the decision about electronics. On the one hand, many Boreal owners like the NKE system, but it is not without its problems either. Several Boreal users have mentioned it, particularly with erratic behavior of the autopilot. Also, its customer support is very much Europe focused. Its difficult to find support out of Europe. The B&G kit, especially that based on the H5000 platform, seems highly regarded in the Grand Prix race world, certainly Volvo. (granted they have an army of techs waiting at every port, but it still must withstand some brutal testing) Can you comment on whether you feel that the problems you faced would have been different with the upper tier B&G gear, or if it’s all basically the same, with different features added on. We currently are B&G Zeus/Triton users, with good luck (just instruments and forward scan, though, we are still using an older Furuno chartplotter and radar). I find the forward scan sonar very worthwhile here in the Pacific coral mommies!!! Many thanks, Adam

Marc Dacey

I recently hooked my B&G Vulcan 7 plotter (it’s at an inside helm station in the pilothouse) into a NMEA 2000 backbone to receive AIS data from a Vesper XB-8000. It’s already attached to a Navico forward-looking sonar. Everything is working well, and I got the “danger vessel” aspect of the AIS targets to ignore docked or distant vessels without having to look up the procedure. Given that my pilothouse is steel-sided (although aluminum-roofed), the ability of the plotter to receive wi-fi and to obtain GPS information is fairly impressive.

The only glitch was during an update, which did not apparently complete properly. However, by downloading the update onto a micro SD card, and booting from that (which is apparently the plotter’s default), the update went without a hitch and has given me several display enhancements and fresh options. So far, I am pleased with B&G and the FLS is a real enhancement, although I am still adjusting the sensitivity to obtain best resolutions.

John Harries

Hi Adam,

I’m not sure if Patrick will respond, since the comments here don’t work like a forum, so he may never see your question.

I did discuss Patrick’s issues with Colin and my understanding was that they were with the complexity of the network and the Radar, rather than with individual units. Also the support for B&G-Navico was disappointing.

If it were me, rather than adding further complexity and network dependance to your new system by going H5000, I would break things down and select best in class free standing units for each function: See these chapters:

https://www.morganscloud.com/2016/01/15/marine-electronics-recommendations-communications/
https://www.morganscloud.com/2016/01/28/marine-electronics-recommendations-radar/
https://www.morganscloud.com/2013/05/26/nmea-2000missing-the-obvious/

That leaves the autopilot decision and here things are a bit murky.

  • I love Furuno gear and it’s generally the most reliable, but they are not really a sailboat focused company.
  • I have heard good things about NKE, but I have no experience and hear you on the support issues.
  • I have a Simrad that has been reliable for 22 years and at least 75,000 miles, but that was before Navico bought Simrad. That said the NAC-3 is basically the same unit with updated software, and the pump set is still the same, so I think it should work fine.

You will note that I have not got into the plotter and that’s simply because I don’t think it matters much. So if you like Zeus, stick with that.

Bottom line, keep it simple and stay away from complex network systems that can be brought down by one small failure or software bug.

The other thing I would recommend is consulting with Colin on this.

Adam Kerner

Thanks for the heads up on Patrick possibly missing my question. Yeah, it is a tough decision, to be sure. The issue of component failing is a real concern where we like to cruise. I never really care too much about warranties, as it won’t be a real issue when the gear packs up in a remote part of the world. Reliability is WAY more important. I’ve always liked walking down the commercial fishing docks…..Pretty much only Furuno and Simrad (old days before Navico) on the radars. Really says something about reliability. Largely why I picked Furuno radar/mfd for current boat 10 years ago, and haven’t had a problem with it since. One other option I’m looking at is Furuno radome to laptop and tablets running Maxsea. Nice the way Furuno interfaces to the program, which is quite powerful. Can always add a small Furuno display if desired down the line. Laptop would also be running OpenCPN with Google Earth sat charting. Possibly go with B&G for instruments, AP, and Forward Scan. Thinking H5000, but might stay w/ Triton. I like some of the sailing features and instrumentation options w/ the H5000, much more like the NKE often used with the Boreal’s. If NKE made a forward scan sonar, I might be more likely to go with them, in spite of the lack of world wide support. Also, though there may be added complexity in the H5000 system, it’s also more modular than the Triton Zeus lineup…..like the NKE, you might get a failure, but it’s possible that it won’t bring down the whole shebang.
I appreciate your approach to stand alone devices. Makes good sense. On the other hand, I like tying AP to wind instruments. Like you, I don’t like to have AP drive to a waypoint. But accurately and responsively steering to the wind, true or apparent, is one of the big advantages to today’s AP’s. Just some thoughts….nice to have choices, but makes for sleepless nights!!!!

Mark, good to hear you’re also having good luck with your B&G forward scan sonar. We’ve had ours for a couple of years, and think it’s a lot of value for the $$. And we’ve also had great luck with our Vesper XB8000. I was sorry to hear that John had so much trouble with their customer support. When I first installed it 3 years ago, I had a compatibility question; baud rates or some other minor issue. Called Vesper, and they connected me with the engineer/owner/designer of the gear/company. I remember going “wow, can’t do better than that”. Hopefully their service hasn’t gone down hill, as John’s story wasn’t encouraging. Cheers!

Marc Dacey

I haven’t needed to call them, but I do find it a positive that the boffin is also the boss. I think their SmartAIS program looks very good in terms of configuration. Over a simple NMEA2000 backbone, it fed AIS targets to the B&G plotter flawlessly, including ones on the U.S. side of Lake Ontario from our dock in Toronto. Now, just about the last thing I need is a heading sensor to tell my Furuno radar which way it’s pointing, at which stage I should be able to see the GPS and AIS sentences over NMEA 0183 (should I wish) from the Vesper unit. Any suggestions for steel boat-appropriate heading sensors would be appreciated. I’m intrigued by this model, but few people in North America seem to know of it. Ticks many boxes, however: https://thrane.eu/lt-1000-nru/

Adam Kerner

Mark, the Thrane unit is interesting, and does check a lot of boxes as you say. A bit scary to put so many sensor eggs in one basket. Thrane is usually known for robust commercial kit, not as well known in the leisure market, which inspires my confidence. Used quite a bit in Australia for outback sat comms in the mining industry. And looking at their dealer web page, they are well represented around the world. BTW, I checked out your blog site…..nice boat, mate!!! Good luck with the preparations. And I like your Bukowski quote!!! I’ve always been a fan! Cheers

Prentiss Berry

Colin,
Nice article in a great series that I can’t get enough of: reading about Boreal yachts. This article left we with more questions. Specifically wanting more details on the thrusters and whether lines are led aft. Then it occurred to me that it would be nice to have a more detailed article about how Eala Bhan is fitted out and why; how she is different from a standard offering.

Congratulations to Patrick on having boat that many of us lust after, and thank you for sharing the experiences with us.

Colin Speedie

Hi Prentiss
Glad to hear you’re enjoying these articles. After having sailed several of these great boats I like writing about them, too!
The thrusters are excellent and I’ll try to write something on them in future. The lines on ‘Eala Bhan’ aren’t lead aft and she has recently had a very nice custom made bag that mounts on the boom to stow them which copes very well with all of the reefing lines etc.
When I was recently in Treguier I looked over two 47’s with the lines led aft, although I didn’t have the chance to sail one of them. It looked like a viable set-up and with electric winches I’m sure would work OK. But personally I’d stick with the lines and winches at the mast.
And thanks to Patrick and Linda for letting me enlighten you on the lovely ‘Eala Bhan’. It’s a pleasure to share those experiences with you all.
Best wishes

Colin

Steve

Hi Colin, great to hear how the newer Boreals are being outfitted. Our Boreal 44 completed in 2013 has the Nke system and we love it. We use as much as our wind pilot. One thing i like about it is when overpowered it shuts down. Couple of weeks ago we were in an unusual weather system where winds all most instantly went from out of the SE to out of the NW and up to 71 knots. With the shut down and over powered with two reefs and staysail out the Nke did it job and turned off allowing us to turn more up into the wind and release sheet on the main. Once winds dropped into 40’s I reset Nke started engine got us back on course and off we went. The Nke has been without problem from the begining.

Has Boreal changed over to the stove you reviewed from the Eno that was suppllied with our Boreal? The Eno is not a well designed stove that is very top heavy . We fixed problem by putting a 12 pound counter weight on bottom of stove.

We have HD radar, Garmin and love how well it works both in close and at a distance. But what we love most is it tells how strong squalls are by showing different colors. When a squall is strong it shows red in the most dense part of squall. We use Garmin on all electronics except the Nke and SSB. Makes for an easy hook ups without strange black boxes.

Just added two more solar panels for 200 watts of power. We now are tottally independent on most days while at anchor or at the dock. We also have the wind generator and we went differently than the Sea&Watt. We use a prop shaft generator that at 5 knots make 5 amps and at 8 knots puts out about 22 amp hours by itself. With all three units working on sunny days with wind and 8 knots speed i can get up to 38 or 40 amps. Does not take long to recharge batteries from 80 % to 100 percent. We went entire Atlantic crossing at 100 percent. I estimate we loose about 1/3 of a knot of speed, nothing serious.

We hope you continue reviewing Boreals, they are amazing boats that do so many things well.

And we hope to see you this summer somewhere in Canada.

Cheers

Colin Speedie

Hi Steve

thanks for the personal experience on the NKE, which echoes all I’ve heard. What impresses me is the reliability with these units which has been good on all the boats I have worked on fitted with them. So it can be done!

The stove is a relatively recent option being offered as an upgrade from the Eno and for my money it’s well worth it.

Good to hear of your good experience with Garmin and I’d agree it’s good policy to stick with one manufacturer when possible, to avoid incompatibility issues.

Sounds like you’ve got your renewable energy systems working well, both on passage and at anchor, which is first class and our ultimate goal. Just got to save up for a hydrogenerator….

And yes, we’ll see you in Canada – be sure to bring the sunshine with you!

Best wishes

Colin

Bill Attwood

Hi Colin.
What great boats the Boreals are! I have really enjoyed the wash-up posts about Eala Bhan. What a pity that the owner should have these problems with new instruments and a new boat. It does reinforce John´s view that stand-alone instruments are the safest bet. I have a question about the FLS, which I have thought about fitting in the future. As I understand it, the 2-D system provides information about the seabed ahead over an arc – I believe about 15° or 20°? How do you use this info for real when you only know that there is an obstruction somewhere in that arc ahead? Does one swing the boats heading to see if there is a clear path ahead? The real test of usefulness seems to me to be if one can identify an isolated rock or reef, have you been able to test this in coral?
Yours aye,
Bill

Colin Speedie

Hi Bill
interesting point re the FLS. On the Echopilot you are limited to an arc (as you point out). Although it is very useful this does have its limitations.
On the unit we had aboard my old GRP working boat, an Interphase TwinScope the arc was far wider and could be biased to one side, which was very useful, for example if you were following a river channel in poor visibility or the dark. Not every day stuff, but handy nonetheless.
And, you’re right, when scanning ahead in unknown water it does help to swing the head around, to spot any rocks etc juts outside the arc.
When we built our aluminium boat, we couldn’t use the Interphase due to the use of a bronze transducer housing, so went with the Echopilot which we’re very happy with.
Interphase were bought out by Garmin a few years ago, so if you are looking for the above advantages, maybe look there?
Glad you’re enjoying the posts – thanks.
Colin

Enno

Hi Collin
One problem that I had on our first Atlantic crossing was that the pendulumrudder of the windpilot can hit the propeller of the Watt&Sea. Your installation looks like this could happen too. My initial solution at sea was to angel the rudder backwards which was a very very bad idea. It almost damaged the windpilot. Never ever do that. I talked to Peter Förthmann (Windpilot) about this , and he came up with a solution and appropriate spare parts immediately. If this is a problem for you too I suggest you talk to Peter who is very knowledgeable and helpful.
I have the Cruising300 model from Watt&Sea. The only problem that we had was that after about a week of continuous use it got very noisy. We had a service from W&S in Las Palmas where the generator part was replaced. The new unit got the same problem after a week. This does not seem to influence performance, so I did not do anything about this. At least I am well informed about boat speed even at sleep now ;-). We bought the short leg which was the wrong decision. Any off center installation should be done with the long leg, regardless of boat size. Ours tends to draw air on a starboard tack. Some people I talked to had problems with seaweed in the propeller. We did not feel this was a big problem. Maybe because we shook of the weed when the propeller surfaced or because our comparably low boat speed.
The W&S regulator doubles as a MPPT solar regulator when the Hydrogerator is not running. Btw the people from W&S told me that the regulator accepts up to 600W of solar. I bought 250W of mobile solar panels that I lay out on deck when at anchor. This is quit unobtrusive when not in use (just two plugs) and effective since I could move the panels to where the sun is. It covered all our energy needs including watermaking and charging our electric outboard.
I agree with Johns assessment that marine electronics build for the pleasure market are of exceptionally low quality. They seem to build it just to survive the warranty period. Unfortunately on a small boat like ours (31ft) There is simply not the space to use the prof equipment. We have mostly instruments of Furuno’s pleasure line and had only minor problems. Our boat is tiller steered and we cannot have a below deck autopilot. Furuno does not make tillerpilots. The Raymarine Evo Autopilot ist the absolutely worst pice of electronics that I have ever seen. On our last passage to the Azores we had 3 days with motoring which cost us two driveunits. This stuff is just unusable trash. Tillerpilots are at the low end of the pleasuremarked and made for daysailers. Besides the support from Raymarine in Norway is worse than nonexistent. The problem is that to my knowledge there are only two companies that still make tiller-pilots: Simrad and Raymarine. If anybody knows about another one please let me know.

Petter ;-)

Just a quick comment for you Enno; if you have a windpilot steering system, it is possible to attach a tiller pilot unit to the windpilot. Effectively you will then have a windpilot that steers your vessel also when there is zero wind. If you google tiller-pilot and windpilot or windvane, then I think you will get a reasonable description and some pictures. Peter F also has something om his site on this, wndpilot.com

The advantage is that since the tiller-pilot only needs to drive the vane, you will get away with a small pilot and low amp’s. It is the windpilot and the force from the water that does the hard work.

Greeting,
Petter 😉

Colin Speedie

Hi Enno
just to agree with you re the Windpilot Pacific, which even has the hole for the spigot pin drilled into it. Do be aware, though that Peter F doesn’t recommend motoring in this mode as it makes the rudder blade shake and accelerates wear of the bearings etc.
Best wishes
Colin

Enno

Hi Petter and Colin
I did experiment with this setup quiet a while but it did not work very well for me. This reminds me that I wanted to comment about this on one of the A40 posts.

Colin Speedie

Hi Enno
you’re correct about the close proximity of the Windpilot rudder and the W & S prop – we have adjusted the Windpilot as suggested by Peter Foerthmann and it clears – just. I’m intrigued by the ‘spare parts’ he has sent you so will contact him and find out more in case we can improve on the set-up on ‘Eala Bhan’.
I’d agree that the long leg looks the better bet for most applications, especially as you say for beamy boats when heeled. One reason why to would be a mistake to mount one too far outboard.
Thanks for the heads-up on the regulator on the W & S, they quote 150W max of additional solar, but that must be for when the W & S is in action. At rest a capacity of 600W makes sense. Good combination.
Have you considered the NKE Mini-120 hydraulic autopilot? Used by almost all the small race boats like the Mini Transat boats, Figaro fleet etc. these are not cheap but they have legendary power and reliability I’m told.
Best wishes
Colin

Enno

Hi Colin
“Sparepart” might have been misleading. What Peter gave me was actually the MF4 extension. We had the MF2 before. This is totally dependent on the way the windvane is attached to your boat. He can certainly recommend an individual solution to you if you send him some pictures.
Best wishes
Enno

Bill Attwood

Hi Colin,
Thanks for the feedback on the FLS.
Hi Enno,
We have a tiller steered boat and use two autopilots. A cheapo Tillerpilot to control the vane when motoring (although I note Colin´s caution with concern), and a SmartPilot which controls the tiller direct. We have a 36 foot boat which probably weighs 8.5 tons fully laden, and use the GP version of the SmartPilot. This has 4 components: a ram attached to the tiller in the cockpit, a course computer which sits at the nav station, a control unit (display with buttons etc) which sits under the sprayhood, and a fluxgate compass, which sits in the heads (under the mast). This means that the sensitive elctronics are all under deck and well protected, only the ram sits out in the weather. To date we have found this reliable, and installed it after a recommendation from a fellow Rustler owner who has used his over many thousands of ocean miles. Nonetheless, our preferred method of steering is with our Windpilot.
Yours aye,
Bill

Enno

Hi Bill
I also had the GP version of the SP before it broke down. The Raymarine dealer I spoke to said it was unservicelble because it is no longer made. He sold me the Evo (supposedly the successor) which is scrap. The Evo simply cannot deliver enough current to the ram to stear propperly.

Bill Attwood

Hi Enno.
That´s not the sort of news to greet one on waking!
😉
It looks as if the replacement EV system from Raymarine is a non-starter for a conventional tiller-steered boat. Another nail in the coffin of Raymarine as far as I am concerned. When and if my GP unit dies, I´ll look to see if the NKE product can be made to fit.
Yours aye,
Bill

Clive Arnold

Hello all,
Before leaving on our cruise from Adelaide (South Australia) to Tasmania and then on to Queensland we refitted our Rival 41C with new B&G Electronics in the form of Zeus12 mfd, 4G radar, AIS, Go-free wifi and Triton instruments. Worked beautifully in the marina and on the first day to Kangaroo Island, but on leaving KI – no wind display ! ( leaving on a cruise without checking equipment , especially electronics , bad idea I know , mea culpa, sorry John…).
In Tasmania went to top of mast , jiggled things, turned it on and bingo, all ok. Should have known it wasn’t that easy. Thereafter we had multiple issues of “no radar”, no ” go free”, with no seemingly consistent pattern. We did find that by rebooting the system it would eventually work most of the time but some days we had no radar or no go free all day. We were told to document the order we turned things on in and try different ways, which we did systematically and repeatedly but the fault was intermittent and appeared to be completely random. It was even suggested it may have been because we turned the Simrad (B&G) vhf on first……these suggestions were from B&G techs.
In the end the B&G agent in Hobart figured it was down to the order in which the instruments were all connected together- the original installer had said it didn’t matter how they were plugged together (which apparently used to be the case) but by putting in, as I recall, a new backbone cable and connecting things differently it has worked virtually flawlessly in the year since and on the trip from Hobart to Queensland (over 2000 miles).
As far as the 4G radar detecting squalls is concerned and with no real experience of other radar, I would say it seems to be quite effective while the shorter range stuff is amazing.
While it’s fair to say we have little to compare it with ( our previous electronics were very old) we are now very pleased with our B&G gear.

Marc Dacey

It’s interesting to hear this stuff. I’m going standalone and Ethernet because I understand it and can service it. These cautionary tales are suggesting that what looks great at the boat show may not be ready for the intrinsic harshness of the boat environment.

John Harries

Hi Marc,

I think you are making a good call. I’m hearing more and more horror stories about these integrated systems. I like ethernet too, industrial strength and proven. However, one big drawback, I don’t know of any really damp proof ethernet plugs.

Marc Dacey

There aren’t any, John, but conformal spray and heat shrink work wonders, as do cable glands (https://www.adafruit.com/product/827). The annoyance and cost of replacing Ethernet cabling, however, is so minimal compared to an MFD costs thousands in the middle of the ocean that it’s just “maintenance” to carry a few spools in sealed bags with dessicant. Also, while I haven’t tried it personally, there’s Cat 5e you can bury, so it must be somewhat more durable than the stuff you find in a server farm by the kilometer (https://www.amazon.ca/Outdoor-Waterproof-Ethernet-Shielded-Connectors/dp/B002L7M4ZY).

Oh, spoke too soon: http://www.digikey.ca/en/product-highlight/a/assmann-wsw-components/waterproof-rj45-series-plugs-and-jacks

Taras

Reason was, original B&G triton allowed daisy-chaining of equipment, while NMEA 2000 clearly states this is not allowed. With daisy-chaining – all data would flow via Tritons, and if they had a bug or something – data would be disturbed, or slowed down.
That is the reason in NMEA 2000 we have a proper backbone.

Paul

Why is the Windpilot Pacific a “backup” to the NKE Autopilot. I’d have thought a self steering system that consumed no power and made no noise would be the primary steerer. What does the Autopilot do that the windvane can’t that makes life sufficiently better to make it the preferred primary option?

John Harries

Hi Paul,

It really depends on boat size and usage as to which is primary. Usage: inshore in variable winds with a lot of course changes a vane gear is a royal pain in the neck. Also, 55 feet is really the upper end for vane gears.

So, for example, on “Morgan’s Cloud”, while we have used our vane gear pretty much full time for a 17 day trade wind crossing of the Atlantic, we never use it coastal sailing, just too much grief. In fact we keep it stowed below and only put it on for ocean passages because it’s so vulnerable to the slightest bump from a wharf or another boat.

Keith Laker

Interesting – and a bit concerning. I have just ordered a complete suite of B&G instruments for our new 45′ currently in build! My experience with Simrad (commercial and leisure) has always been excellent, but time will tell. Hopefully I will be able to comment positively later this year 🙂

John Harries

Hi Keith,

It will be good to hear what your experience is. Please keep us informed.